Behind the scenes: inspiring women who switched careers to become software engineers

Switching careers is not an easy path – especially if you’re coming from a different field to software engineering.

As part of International Women’s Day at Babbel, we had the  opportunity to interview three Babbelonians, who are part of our Femgineering community, about  their journey to a career in engineering, and the inspiring and challenging lessons they learnt along the way. Meet Marthe, Jadwiga and Jharna in this edition of Behind the scenes. 

Jadwiga Coumert (she/her)

Backend Engineer, grew up in France, speaks French, English, German and Brazilian Portuguese.

  • What’s your role at Babbel? How long have you been working at Babbel?

I am working as a Backend engineer, developing and maintaining services used by our app. I joined only 2 months ago!

  • What did you do before becoming an engineer and why have you decided to switch to the engineering field?

I studied business administration and company management but all I wanted was to go abroad. I started my career in online marketing and worked for 3 years as an SEO manager in a tech company. As a matter of fact, the SEO team was part of the engineering department when I joined, giving me a good glimpse into the culture of a tech department. I was working closely with the team taking care of the company’s websites. This included things like, defining new features, taking part in refinements, testing the features my team had defined or creating AB tests. I thought of the web developers as magicians that made my “wishes” come true and I really wanted to be part of their team. When my team got re-structured, I was meant to take on a more technical role so I decided to do a coding bootcamp to get to the next level. I loved doing the bootcamp and was very eager to get a job in web-development afterwards.

  • What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced while switching?

The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. In the beginning of a tech career, it’s particularly overwhelming to realize how much there is to learn. Even after a 9 weeks bootcamp during which I learned every day something new, I had barely scratched the surface of what it really is like to work as a software engineer. The bootcamp itself was a huge challenge and I was relieved and proud to make it through. But once I started my first job as web development intern, I realized the bootcamp had been just an easy first step in a safe and controlled environment. I think my biggest challenge in the beginning was to stop comparing myself to other colleagues that had a computer science degree. It was at times difficult as a lot of people assumed I should have one as well and were surprised by some of the gaps in my knowledge. It took me a while to realize that I had a very different background but that didn’t make me less suitable for the job.. I brought a very different set of skills and a different way of thinking. I was lucky to join an organization where management valued me and my “difference” a lot. It helped me gain confidence.

  • What have been your biggest learnings in the Babbel Engineering team? / What was the main highlight of joining the Babbel engineering team?

One of my motivations to apply to Babbel was an article published by the Femgineers. Encouraging more women to work and stay in tech is one of my drivers in all the organizations I joined and I was glad to see that Babbel has it as a priority as well. I was really happy to see a lot of women working in technical positions and I am eager to take part in the Femgineer group.

One of the highlights so far was to see the ownership and freedom the engineers have over their domain. I was delighted to get to know a technical stack very different from what I’ve worked with so far and I have been given the time and resources to learn.

Jharna Gulrajani (she/her)

Android Engineer, was born in India. Speaks English, Sindhi, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, German and other software languages 🙂

  • What’s your role at Babbel? How long have you been working at Babbel?

When I joined Babbel, I started as an Engineering Manager! I am an Android engineer now though and have been with Babbel for over 4 years.

  • What did you do before becoming an engineer and why have you decided to switch to the engineering field? 

I studied engineering at university. It was my plan B – if I couldn’t get into a good medical school (I missed getting into medicine by 3-4 marks in the 12th grade). But before becoming an Android engineer, I was leading teams and have been responsible for teams as big as 30 people.
I was feeling the draw to go back to coding for a while, but 2 years ago, I couldn’t ignore that feeling any longer and just took the plunge. I had hesitated all that while as its generally not the move people make in their software careers – generally people “grow” from being an individual contributor to managing teams. I wanted to do the exact opposite! 

  • What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced while switching?

For a period of around six months, I did my regular job as an Engineering Manager and took some time off of my work week to ramp up on Android development – through an online course. The course was demanding and the clock was ticking to finish it in a timely fashion. So I ended up having to study on weekends as well. Having been a software developer before the foundations were not what was missing in my case. It was that there was so much to learn and well the physical time was limited -as I am also a mom – my son was starting school that time. Combining work, studying and getting my son settled into school made things very challenging to balance back then.

After I made the move – even though I had an awesome mentor working with me – there were always topics that I didn’t know much about or had to do a lot of research on when working on them.  I always thought this is probably something I should know and not ask for help on, classic imposter syndrome in play. I continued to study in my personal time to gain expertise in my area.

What have been your biggest learnings in the Babbel Engineering team? / What was the main highlight of joining the Babbel engineering team? 

Having been in different parts of the organization and in different roles, I bring a unique skillset to the table that are advantageous to my team and my organization. I am cognizant of this now and use it to our benefit. 

Technically – I have had the chance to work on really cool stuff, difficult problems and also stuff that might seem mundane to many – tech debt removal, refactoring. I enjoy it all and as I see I can solve technical and non-technical problems with equal ease, it’s very rewarding, fulfilling. 

Every day that I learn something new is a day well spent for me – the culture in Babbel gives me ample space to grow as an engineer!

Marthe Schenk (she/her)

Fullstack Engineer, was born and raised in the Netherlands. Speaks Dutch, English, German and a smattering of Danish 

  • What’s your role at Babbel? How long have you been working at Babbel?

I’m a fullstack engineer, making sure that the content our Learning Content teams provide, is available to our frontend teams. I’ve been at the company for over 7 years now.

  • What did you do before becoming an engineer and why have you decided to switch to the engineering field? 

I have a degree in Political Science and Scandinavian Studies, and struggled a bit with finding a way to make a career out of that combination. I decided that going back to school and studying Media Informatics, which was a very decent choice. I managed to land a student job creating learning content in Danish and Dutch here at Babbel around the same time, so all things lined up perfectly for me 🙂  

  • What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced while switching?

Making the jump from Babbel’s Didactics team (now called Learning Content) to Engineering. In hindsight, I should have done that sooner, but in hindsight we’re all geniuses, right? I really didn’t trust my own skills or ability to learn.

Are you considering a career in engineering?

At Babbel, we value diversity and welcome individuals from all backgrounds to join our team. We are currently looking for talented engineers to join our team and help us build the future of language learning.

Whether you have experience in software engineering or are looking to switch from another engineering field, we want to hear from you! Apply now and be part of a company that prioritizes inclusion, learning and growth.

Want to join our Engineering team?
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